Friday, 1 July, 2022
HomeOpinionPoVCovid-19 unlocked Rahul Gandhi's new avatar — retired European social democrat

Covid-19 unlocked Rahul Gandhi’s new avatar — retired European social democrat

The Covid-19 lockdown has allowed Gandhi to discover his true political character, by interviewing economists on Zoom & addressing virtual press conferences.

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If it wasn’t for the novel coronavirus and the nationwide lockdown, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi would not have discovered his true political character — a retired European social democrat.

Over the past two months, Covid-19-related social restrictions have afforded Rahul Gandhi a chance to do the kind of politics that he has always wanted to. He can interview economists and scientists from Harvard and Oxford over Zoom calls. He can address virtual press conferences, and if something goes wrong, he can use social media to berate the news media for misconstruing his statements.

In fact, it was the BJP’s arch political strategist and Home Minister Amit Shah who, during a virtual rally, called out Gandhi’s new avatar.

“People are discussing in English about India’s fight against coronavirus in Sweden and America. Please give an account of what you have done except giving interviews,” said Shah during his address to Odisha’s BJP cadre and supporters.

By talking about “Sweden, America, and interviews”, Amit Shah is dissing Rahul Gandhi for interviewing academics from Sweden and America, while he further implied that those countries are busy discussing how Prime Minister Narendra Modi “fixed” the pandemic situation in India.

It seems that Amit Shah really gets Rahul Gandhi — someone who broadly adheres to European notions of social democracy, is more enthused with academic debates than talking to India’s rag-tag masses, prefers working from home like a politician who has quit active politics, and uses Twitter to critique the government.

In a way, Rahul Gandhi appears to be doing what European social democrats do after quitting active politics.

Also read: India, US aren’t as tolerant as they used to be: Rahul Gandhi to ex-diplomat Nicholas Burns


Who is a European social democrat?

There are two aspects to them. First, they act like retired politicians. Second, their worldview is situated in broad Euro-centric conception of social democracy, which accepts markets but only if supplemented with a lot of welfare. Rahul Gandhi meets both these criteria.

Over the past few months, Rahul Gandhi’s politics have been eerily similar to the post-retirement politics of Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister and leader of the Labour party. Both hate the people in power and want to fundamentally overhaul the direction of their countries. But they feel they can do so by intellectually changing public sentiment, as opposed to indulging themselves in hardcore politics. Gandhi has especially tried to do this after stepping down from Congress’ presidentship.

Blair is remembered for effectively moving his party towards the centre, and rebranding it as the “New Left”. But since his retirement in 2007, he has tried to influence Labour politics and the general direction of the UK in one way or the other. Most notable was his attempt to reverse the UK’s 2016 Brexit referendum vote, and somehow ensure that his country stayed within the European Union.

Blair hoped his intellectual and passionate defence of the UK’s rightful place in the EU would sway public mood. Never mind the fact that during the same time, Boris Johnson and his cabal were busy dethroning Theresa May so they could come to power and oust the UK from the EU.

Miliband-style politics

This brings us to another British Labour party leader Edward Miliband. After stepping down from active politics, Miliband has kept alive the post-retirement social democratic tradition, trying to influence politics by becoming a popular podcaster and radio host. But just before he quit politics, Miliband oversaw probably the most significant decision in Labour Party’s recent history.

Under Miliband, the Labour Party’s membership fee was drastically reduced and brought down to just a few pounds. This facilitated the entry of thousands of hard-Left millennials into the Labour Party. That helped its next leader Jeremy Corbyn expand his base and turn Tony Blair’s centrist Labour Party into a somewhat socialist one.

Affinity to Left-leaning economists

It is in terms of the worldview that Rahul Gandhi is increasingly beginning to echo the views of European social democrats. Nothing reflects this better than the economists he chose to virtually interview during the Covid crisis. Both Abhijit Banerjee and Raghuram Rajan, though highly respected economists across the world, belong squarely to the Left-side of the economic spectrum.

While they both have sufficient experience with India, their policy suggestions are often critiqued as implementing Western fixes to the rugged and complex Indian economy. And if they are the only economists Rahul Gandhi interviews, then he is implicitly linking their economic views with that of the Congress’.

Even this would not be problematic, except that interviewing only foreign talent seems to suggest that Gandhi thinks smart economic advice lies only outside India. This directly plays into Amit Shah’s caricature of Gandhi as a social democrat who’s heart truly lies in Europe.

Views are personal.

Also read: Rahul Gandhi had another chance to look different from Modi. Comeback shows same old problems


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  1. To Mr.Tanhaji Patil,
    With due respect Sir,please don’t insult camels. Their intellect in their natural domain can surpass a human for survival.And donkeys are very hardworking animals,quite unlike your subject..He who shall not be named..
    Every govt.makes mistakes..hold them accountable – that’s fair..But this governance by remote control..or by virtue of Never holding public office,striving to persevere in spite of previous errors,complete lack of connect with the masses ..a few photo-ops do not maketh a great leader..just an opportunistic one..This is the Congress that is staring at self-destruction.
    And Modi can sit happy,because he knows how to yank Rahul’s chain..Get rid of the Gandhi’s from the Congress and let’s talk then.
    As for social democrats..there is nothing wrong with that..but an out of touch,zero ground reality awareness elitist trust fund sadly not even that..even there he is a wannabe..

  2. Just one word. Huh!!!

    Baffled and befuddled. No attempt made at eliciting the benefits of the glorious center of right “democrat” (cannot because that does not exist) To contrast with the so called non-benefits of Left Democrats.

    It is the left of center socio economic program call “MNREGA” that the wonderful right of center government is relying on to avoid “total social and economic” collapse.

  3. Only those who have worked can retire , this is a new concept , the next we will hear Rahul filing for divorce ,ahem.

  4. The title of the article has made my day! Soon, the voters will retire Rahul Gandhi for good. He is not seen doing much as an MP.

  5. Really funny Comparison!!
    Social Democrats have lost credibility all across Europe with most Europeans voting for Govts right of centre.

  6. This is the weirdest thing I have yet read about Rahul Gandhi – and believe me, there are quite a few weird things written about him. So (A) why is it a problem to be a “social democrat”? the original Gandhi was a social democrat, Nahru was one, one can argue that Ambedkar made sure that out constitution has broadly social democratic values. so what on earth is wrong with aspiring to build a social democratic world? The problem is social welfare or democracy?
    (B) “European” in the title is a value judgement without any basis – in fact, the author seems confused about what “foreign” and “Eurpean” means … (s)he accuses Rahul of “interviewing only foreign talent” … I mean, come on! We were SO proud of an Indian winning an economics Nobel, and now he is “foreign”?
    All is all, the article comes out as being written by someone reasonably informed, desperately trying to please a right wing that probably they themselves probably don’t admire. Otherwise it is hard to understand the distinct schism between flashes of reasonableness and totally strange, ignorant and illogical bits.

  7. It always amazes me how much time and energy is spent by the RSS/BJP and its flunkies on someone they think is such a failure and now a “retired” politician. If he’s so unimportant, why does the RSS/BJP immediately respond to a man who is not even the Congress party president? What are they so concerned about? Why are they so afraid of him? Their insecurity about the power around this quiet man never ceases. The more they respond and the manner in which they respond reveals how terrified they truly are.

  8. Nothing wrong with having a left of centre economic world-view. Also in India the constituency for hard capitalism where businesses have full freedom to create, sell and shut down as they please is very very tiny. Even a so-called right-wing PM like Modi has socialist 70s style welfarism as his economic corner-stone.
    The problem is RG having a “hands-off” approach unlike Modi-Shah who are cut-throat politicians. I personally have no real issues with it but I guess lot of other Indians would prefer RG to be more hands-on. That decision is for RG to make. Unfortunately for Indians who are dissatisfied with Modi sarkar, options other than RG are virtually non-existent.

  9. After reading this article one thing strike to mind was… Kya print ki koi majboori hai kya … The print kisi finanacial crisis me hai kya ” ………hamesha sarkar tarafdari karate hai……… chatukarita

  10. Does anyone take the Congress seriously? Does Congress take itself seriously? Does anyone take Rahul ji seriously?
    The Congress exists only for 1 reason – it’s a proxy for Pakistan, China, naxals, militant Islamists and other powers inimical to India.
    Even the common man has become aware of this by now – and this is reinforced every time Raul Vinci Gandhi appears on TV – a hollow and shallow middle-aged man with the intellect of a camel. A good looking guy – but dumb as a donkey; and that’s being polite.

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